The extreme weather in parts of the country, including a hard-hit Texas, is causing delays in Covid-19 vaccine shipments and deliveries, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. The White House is working to move up scheduled deliveries, surge shipment operations and potentially extend hours at vaccination sites, she said.
“The CDC and federal partners are working closely with the jurisdictions, as well as manufacturing and shipping partners, to assess weather conditions, and to help mitigate potential delivery delays and cancellations,” Psaki said at a White House briefing.
Psaki said the White House Covid-19 response team is in constant communication with local officials, and that officials at the White House have had many one-on-one calls, emails and meetings with states, tribes, territories and key partners about the impact of the storm on vaccination efforts.
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“We’re also working with our partners to move up scheduled deliveries whenever possible, and to surge shipment operations through the end of the week into the weekend. We’re in conversation about extended hours and additional appointments to try and reschedule shots given the storm,” Psaki said.
Psaki said the goal is to make sure access to vaccines remains as “stable and equitable” as possible.
Widespread power outages in Texas have caused serious, cascading issues with the state’s supply of heating, water, food and medicine. Power was down for about 500,000 Texas customers as of Thursday morning – way down from the over 3 million outages a day earlier, according to Poweroutage.us. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the state’s power grid, said in a statement Thursday morning it had made “significant progress” restoring power overnight.
But the winter storm and ongoing cold were still affecting the system’s power generation, and rotating outages may be needed over the next couple of days, the company said.
Psaki said that President Joe Biden has been receiving updates about Texas and the surrounding states impacted by the bad weather more than once a day.
“Ensuring that the people of Texas, the people of the surrounding states have the resources they need is something that he raises in meetings frequently and has over the past couple of days,” Psaki said.
The President has directed his team to “make rapid decisions and be responsive to the specific needs of the states as they come up during this difficult time.”
The Biden administration has approved federal emergency declarations for Texas and Oklahoma, Homeland Security adviser and deputy national security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall said at the Thursday White House briefing. She said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was also processing a federal emergency declaration request from Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat.
Sherwood-Randall said FEMA is “providing generators to support water treatment plants and hospitals and nursing homes in Texas” and is “also providing blankets and meals and other supplies as requested by the governor of Texas.”
“The extreme weather events that we’re experiencing this week across the central Southern and now the eastern United States do yet again demonstrate to us that climate change is real and it’s happening now and we’re not adequately prepared for it,” Sherwood-Randall said.
CNN’s Travis Caldwell, Keith Allen and Eric Levenson contributed to this report.